A Beautiful Day in Our Neighborhood

Posted on May 12th, 2017 by

Have you seen our sign?

Have you seen our sign?

I admit that when I first applied to work for the Jewish Museum of Maryland, I had no idea where “Jonestown” was. I wasn’t alone. Regular fans of JMM may remember the articles we saw in surrounding the unveiling of the Jonestown vision plan. Through the creation of that plan, we and our partners learned that many residents and business-owners in Jonestown didn’t know where Jonestown was. Not anymore.

Today, Jonestown (JMM’s neighborhood, bounded to the north by Orleans Street, the east by Central Ave, the west by Fallsway and the south by Pratt Street) is on the brink of a true renaissance.  This “Performance Counts” newsletter often regales you with numbers and metrics. This month, I am only thinking about one number: seven. It’s a number important in Jewish culture, and it happens to be the number, by my count, of significant improvements and developments—recent or forthcoming—in our changing neighborhood.

Breaking ground

Breaking ground

1. I recently had the privilege to attend the official groundbreaking for the new Ronald McDonald House, which will have an Aisquith address, but will fill the much of the block between Fayette and Baltimore Streets a stone’s throw to our northeast. The groundbreaking was educational and emotional for me, as I learned with some heartache about the hope and care that RMHC provides for children suffering from serious illness and their families.

Check out that snazzy entrance!

Check out that snazzy entrance!

2. Just west of the soon-to-be RMHC on Fayette, you’ll find a huge brick structure, painted with jaunty gray diagonal color blocks. This facility, the newly-opened UA House of Living Classrooms, provides support, smiles, activities and an inviting and safe place before and after school for neighborhood children and youth.

3. Also on Fayette, the National Aquarium is working on renovating a 50,000 sq foot property that will serve as an animal care and rescue facility. We understand from our colleagues at the Aquarium that the new space will allow them to properly quarantine and care for animals, and that they do have plans to make it available to visitors on a limited basis.

Hendler Creamery Corporation

Hendler Creamery Corporation

4. A little closer to the Museum, on Baltimore Street, the long-vacant and historic Hendler Ice Cream factory is soon to be converted into both retail and luxury apartments. The developer’s plans include nearly 300 apartments, two floors of parking, and 20,000 square feet of retail. (We have heard through the grapevine that the developers are hoping to incorporate several café-style restaurants in the retail portion. Needless to say, JMM staff is excited!)

The McKim Center

The McKim Center

5. The McKim Center, the Lloyd Street Synagogue’s older sister, will soon be situated right between the new Hendler Creamery development and the new Ronald McDonald House. Its new neighbors, recognizing the historic, cultural and emotional impact of this community anchor, are each planning to help improve the center’s immediate surrounds, with RMHC creating a new park and playground as a part of its plans and the Hendler project adding a façade clean-up and repair of the 184-year-old building.

The JEA

The JEA

6. Speaking of old buildings with Jewish history, the Helping Up Mission recently acquired the former home of the Jewish Educational Alliance (the precursor of the JCC) at 1216 E. Baltimore Street. (My colleagues blogged about their recent visit there.) Helping Up Mission has big plans for the site, which they plan to use to expand their residential work therapy services so that they can help women as well as men.

Helping Up Mission

Helping Up Mission

7. Helping Up Mission, in addition to being our neighbor, is also our tenant. In the middle of last year, they rented 5 Lloyd Street from the JMM. Per our agreement, they’ve done considerable work on the property as a part of their rent. They have been such good tenants at 5 Lloyd Street, that when they expressed interest in the property we own on Lombard Street, formerly Lenny’s Deli, we were eager to listen. As of this month, and until the end of November, Helping Up is renting the Lenny’s property. They’re doing a lot of work on it this month, getting it ready for their needs—to serve as their cafeteria for the residents of the mission while their own kitchen facilities are completely renovated. We are currently reviewing our options for the use of the site past November.

So what about the Jewish Museum of Maryland amid these seven key changes in Jonestown? Fear not, dear reader, we have plans that will make you proud! We are refining a vision for our future that will create a Center for Discourse and Discovery at JMM – with a special focus on Holocaust/genocide education in the 21st century, reposition the historic Lloyd Street Synagogue as a landmark of religious liberty, and add improved program and exhibit space to our main museum building.

These are exciting times! I hope to see you around the Museum and in the neighborhood soon!

Jonestown: Proudly we hail.

Jonestown: Proudly we hail.

A blog post by Associate Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




WHAT IS THE USE OF JEWISH HISTORY?

Posted on December 4th, 2013 by

People sometimes ask me, “What is the use of Jewish history?” And “why do you study and write about that so much?” Author and historian, Lucy Davidowitz, wrote a book on this subject.

2007.054.027  Book cover, The Hoffburger Journey in America: 1882-2005, compiled primarily by Lois Hoffberger Blum Feinblatt.

2007.054.027 Book cover, The Hoffburger Journey in America: 1882-2005, compiled primarily by Lois Hoffberger Blum Feinblatt.

Others take their concern and doubt to an annoying level, saying, “History is not important.” Perhaps not, for them, compared with the latest Hollywood gossip, the score of Sunday’s  football game or newest technological toy. Their view is short sighted, to say the least.

For me, researching and writing about Jewish history is akin to raising a memorial to departed relatives, ancestors and – yes – to strangers.  Some may be famous community or congregational leaders while others served their families quietly with love and dedication.

Only two of my relatives served the community in public ways – one was a Hershfield who served as secretary of a synagogue in New Jersey. The shul is now defunct, and I have no documentation about this except for Oral History tapes of my mother.

Another Hershfield in the same family in Jersey City served on the public School Board.  But this branch of the family are notorious for not answering letters, and we have been out of touch with them since the 1960s, so no documentation has been found to verify the anecdote.

(As for yichus, that is, genealogical status, I sometimes imagine that I am descended from a 2nd Century Sage or a Levitical priest.  But this may be ego on my part!)

Every time we quest for our family’s history, read an article in a Jewish History periodical or visit the JMM, we are raising a memorial to the whole Jewish people.  It is like placing rocks on the top of tombstones when we visit cemeteries. The purpose is to make the marker-stone larger, thereby, increasing the honor of those who have passed away. Saying Kaddish for one’s father is another example.  Sharing our genealogies with living relatives is a third example of zichron – remembering our ancestors.  And from where we came.

1973.008.001 Collage of Galitzianer gravestones (1903) from Gruft family collection. Artist unknown.]

1973.008.001 Collage of Galitzianer gravestones (1903) from Gruft family collection. Artist unknown.]

The value of learning, teaching and celebrating our many-faceted history becomes more apparent when we consider how often in history that the Jewish people have faced extreme adversity.  Even if our immigrant-ancestors lived a life of obscurity, toiling in the moderate Garment Industry of Jonestown or peddling as an arabisher, there is eternal value to our interest, care and memory of them.  We need the Eternal One’s eyes to perceive the value of Jewish history.

1997.149.003  Button sewing machine (1930s), made by Singer, from D. Schwartz and Sons Garment Machinery Co., of Baltimore Street and later, Gay Street.

1997.149.003 Button sewing machine (1930s), made by Singer, from D. Schwartz and Sons Garment Machinery Co., of Baltimore Street and later, Gay Street.

 

photo of Robert SiegelA blog post by Collections Volunteer Robert Siegel. To read more posts by and about JMM volunteers, click here.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland